As we celebrate the 234th anniversary of the publication of that most heretical document, let us reflect on conflict.
If change is inevitable, then so must be conflict.
In a knowledge-based and technology-driven economy, the frequency of change has increased tremendously. And, as a result, conflicts invariably arise.
Still, our touchy-feely, consensus-favoring culture tends to avoid conflict, almost at every turn. Many folks view conflict and disruption with dread, denial, and even fear.
Misconceptions about conflict abound.
One is that all conflict is negative. There are many forms of conflict from Supreme Court rulings to scientific debate to methods of child rearing between loving parents that sharpen all of us and develop us as people.
Another is that people are always hurt by conflict. That is not true. It is similar to going to the dentist. I find no joy whatsoever in going to my dentist, but the long-term results are positive and in my best interest.
A third misconception is that people are too fragile to handle conflict. Someone once said, "Without conflict, there would be no free market." We all know that the business world is packed with conflict every day.
Once we get through the misconceptions, we can truly benefit from conflict.
Conflict helps us discover the real "You" and the strength of our character. It is at times of stress- often forced by conflict- where we learn who we really are.
Conflict lets us know who our friends are. Conflict quickly tells us know who we can count on and who will be by our side when the going gets tough.
Finally, conflict also serves as the crucible of a new and better way. The great American philosopher John Dewey observed, "Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention. It sets us noting and contributing."